Honour the martyrs differently
The death of 21 people in July 2011 will forever be held as a shameful blot on the history of democratic Malawi.
The country was supposed to have turned the corner when it embraced democracy, but the July 20 massacres are a poignant reminder that despite the great strides the country has made, certain elements among us remain wedded to the ethos of the past where dissent was rarely tolerated.
It is for this reason that leaders of opposition parties proposed the day to be set aside to commemorate the people who were martyred at the battlefront of a war waged on our freedoms by a regime that could not understand that multiparty democracy entails that we can be different in our sameness.
The killings were actions of a government that was scared of its own people for demanding what it had sworn to do. But a government frightened of its people loses the authority to lead, less so to recognise the error of its ways and make amends.
Inasmuch as we appreciate the proposals advanced by the political leaders, allow us to disagree on the best way of honouring the fallen heroes.
For starters, we already have days during which the nation recognises its heroes and martyrs and adding another commemorative day will only serve to clog the calendar that is already teeming with holidays. Besides, we risk creating the narrative that the history of the nation has been one long story of bloodletting.
We can wipe the tears of the relations of the victims through other means such as the erection of a memorial pillar as has been suggested. We would further encourage the leaders to take this matter beyond the rhetoric of the July 20 commemorations and ensure that the people are properly compensated. The amount that the government paid in compensation—K32 million in March last year—was an insult to the spirits of the 21 victims and derisory to their relations.
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